My Research Graphic

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First a “Thank You”

Thank you to writing buddy and Photoshop whiz  Bonnie Eaton, aka B.J. Myrick, for creating my historical research graphic. I supplied the list of resources, and she put them together with a picture of me hard at work. Bonnie knows what is involved in research as she has her own historical novel, Nelly of No Man’s Land.

The Library Book Collection: My First Research Stop

Once I settled on the Battle of Mine Creek, my first stop was the Emporia Public Library to see what it had on the topic. Out of a half dozen books that looked promising, I found They Deserved a Better Fate by Roy Bird to be particularly helpful as it sparked the idea for the main character and part of the plot. Learning that the Confederates had taken prisoners at the Battle of the Blue near Westport and marched south with Price’s wagon train past Mine Creek all the way to Newtonia before being set free, I knew that Hiram Pierce would be my main character and that he would be one of those prisoners. In previous Pierce saga novels, we’ve seen Hiram’s dark side. Will being a prisoner of war change him? If so, how? All of that is still to be determined as I delve into Hiram’s character, his motives for voluntarily joining the militia, and the conditions of his capture and time as a prisoner.

 

 

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Defining Panic

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In last week’s post, I lamented the lack of closets in nineteenth century houses, but fixing that error in my novel was easy compared to the other problem my astute critique partner, Wes, brought up. First, the offending sentence from thirteen-year-old Lucy’s point of view:

In his letters, Ambrose had said even with the depression the last couple of years, the town and Pa’s blacksmith shop had done well.

The problem?

In the nineteenth century, economic downturns weren’t depressions, they were panics. Yes, Lucy was referring to the Panic of 1857. It was easy enough to remove depression and insert panic, but I couldn’t help wondering how a modern reader would interpret panic. I felt a definition was necessary, but definitions tend to slow down the action and take readers out of the story. Below is my attempt to explain without author intrusion. Does it work?

In his letters, Ambrose had said even with the Panic the last couple of years, the town and Pa’s blacksmith shop had done well. All I knew about the Panic was what I heard folks at the hotel say: In 1857, a ship on the way from the San Francisco Mint to the States in the east had sunk with thirty thousands pounds of gold on board. I couldn’t even imagine what that much gold looked like. Aunt Hannah said banks were shutting down, railroads were going broke, and farmers were getting less money for grain and not paying their mortgages. With fewer people going west, fewer people were staying at our hotel. For most of the last year, Aunt Hannah said the hotel barely made enough to stay open, and my pa and uncles complained they weren’t seeing the profits they once did. Those hard times seem to have gone by without touching Hidden Springs.

Just writing it out here, I’m thinking I’ve overdone the explanation. I question whether I needed all the facts I gave about the Panic. Should I take out the part about the sinking ship and go straight to what Aunt Hannah said? Is the definition of a panic clear? Is it credible that Lucy has this information at the age of thirteen? These are all questions I will continue to mull as I finish the second revision and move on to the third. Any advise will be appreciated.

 

Nano Novel: Revision Steps

My second course commitment for December

In my previous post, I said I had committed to two new courses. The first is Blogging 201: Branding and Growth, which was the subject of Monday’s post. Today, I’m discussing the second course commitment, Joan Dempsey’s course on revising fiction. Through the course, she has made some excellent suggestions on determining the revising method that works best for an individual writer. While it’s too late to join her course, you can find the videos on YouTube.

How I Revise

Reading for Story

I start with chapter one and read straight through, making notes on each chapter. I list the characters in the scene and make sure their motives are clear and the scene contains conflict that moves the story forward. Since this is the second book in the series, I need to make sure readers do not have to have read the first book in order to fully understand what is happening and why. At some point, I will need beta readers who have not read the first book to ensure I have reached that clarity. Any volunteers?

Checking Character and Point of View

I am using first person point of view in the Pierce Family Saga. That means I must have an intimate understanding of each character’s background and motives. Some characters, such as Cordelia and Lucy, I know from the first book in the series, Cordelia’s Journey. However, these characters are now four years older. The relationships and world views of the characters have changed. Their biographies need to be updated. Since I wrote For Want of a Father during NaNo with only a general idea of the story, I created characters on the fly, characters I know almost nothing about. During the revision, I will be learning much more about each of the characters and deciding which ones will go on to the third book in the series.

Checking Dialogue and Description

For me, dialogue and description are important tools for conveying character and conflict, so I will work on both as I read each chapter. When it comes to setting, I describe only those things that matter to my point-of-view character. If there is no reason for my character to notice a gun or a fireplace or a team of horses, it will not be in the story. I don’t want to slow down story for the sake of providing details. Every detail is important to what is happening at that moment and/or during the final scenes of the book.

Submitting to my Critique Group

Before submitting revised chapters to my critique group, I try to make the writing as perfect as I can. That doesn’t mean I don’t have faulty sentences and needless repetition. It simply means I try to make the writing the best I can do at that moment, so my critique partners aren’t so distracted by sentence level issues that they can’t feel the story.

Deciding the Number of Revisions

There is no set number of revisions to make. The process is complete only when formatting and sentence level errors have been eliminated, and the joy and sadness, laughter and tears felt by the characters are so clearly depicted that they touch readers’ hearts.

Comments, Please

If you are a reader of novels, what makes a story memorable and satisfying for you?

If you are a writer, what are some of your revision methods?

Cordelia_final front_cover copy

Cordelia’s Journey is available as an e-book on Amazon

or as a paperback on Create Space.

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Soon: Cordelia’s Journey

At last! The Kansas Authors Club convention is over, and I can write about Cordelia’s Journey, the first book in the Pierce Family Saga by title. I had entered the club’s first pages of a novel contest. Submissions were supposed to be anonymous, and my understanding was I couldn’t publish my connection to the book on the Internet until the convention was over, which was October 4. I am proud to say the novel received an honorable mention.

KAC 2015 award

Cordelia’s Journey is a coming-of-age novel set in Kansas Territory in 1855. It traces a thirteen-year-old runaway girl’s 150-mile journey down the Kansas River. Destination: her aunt in Westport, Missouri. Goal: To enlist her aunt in returning home with her in an attempt to save her mother’s life. Fear of discovery and a lack of funds slow her down, even as events on the trail shock her into breaking her word and finding quicker transportation.

My original launch date was planned for October 20, 2015. However, cover issues have made me move that date to October 25, 2015. If the permanent cover is still unavailable at that time, I will go forward using Create Space’s cover creator and shift to the final cover when it is finished. I love print on demand and the flexibility of making changes when needed.

Welcome to The Pierce Family Saga

After five years, I am coming to the end of my first historical novel and find myself unwilling to let go of the characters I have created. One way to keep them going is to continue their stories in future books: a family saga.

The book title choices are down to two. Critique group members and friends have helped me locate errors my eyes couldn’t find on their own.The book has been formatted for paperback. My friend and writing buddy, B.J Myrick, is working on a cover. I have uploaded the book and ordered four proof copies for additional beta readers. Those copies should arrive by September 2. The target date for publication is October 20, 2015.

My publication plan is a book a year. The purpose of this blog is to help me stay on task and to keep readers up to date on what is happening behind the scenes of a saga in progress. Here are some of the post categories you will see in the coming weeks:

Character: backstories and motivations

Each novel will focus on two to four members of the fictional Pierce family. Although there will be some similarity in the characters backstories, each will view events through their own personalities and experiences. In addition, not everything that happens can be shown in the book. Decisions have to be made about what goes in and what doesn’t.

Setting: time and place

The first novel is set in Kansas Territory, 1855. The second novel will take place in 1859 and cover a much larger area of the American West. Besides historical people, places, and events, I will be researching customs, clothing, language, travel options, jobs, and much more. I’ll be posting research sources and book reviews for those of you who want to know more about the  time period.

Writing issues

When a person spends days and weeks researching a topic, how much should be included in the actual novel? How many point of view characters can be used before readers are confused? What technique will be used to move from one character’s point of view to another? These are some of the questions I will explore as they come up during the writing process.

This blog, like the family saga, is very much a work in progress. At this moment, the blog is bare. It’s like moving into a new house. I’m not quite sure what furniture (widgets) I need or where to put them. If you have suggestions, leave a comment. If you want to follow the behind the scenes development of a series, please subscribe.